What is Zero Waste?
Zero waste philosophy encourages you to rethink the life cycle of a product and reuse as much as you can to avoid sending more trash to landfills or incinerators. It’s a really cool but extremely overwhelming idea. I keep worrying that I’m not doing it right or doing enough so I end up putting it off. But I’ve realized that it’s not a race and it’s ok to start small. So far, I am happy with my progress. I want to remind you that you are already one step closer by reading this post.
I think it’s important to understand that zero waste might not be your reality now but you can definitely build up to it. It definitely helps to start small and think of how you can lessen the waste or plastic being thrown away rather than instantly removing it all from your current lifestyle. Adapting the philosophy at your own pace will have a longer lasting effect than doing it abruptly. You will end up setting high hopes for your progress and then you fail because of disappointment by not giving yourself time to learn. I think even if you don’t fully live a zero waste lifestyle, contributing to the cause definitely still counts.
One less waste
Imagine if you refused to use that one straw at the restaurant or refused two less plastic bags at the grocery store because you brought some reusable ones: you’ve saved a happy sea creature and that’s one or two less plastic items in the landfill. You don’t have to worry about not having enough reusable bags to bring to the store, for it to matter. A little bit goes a long way; you still contributed to the cause.
Don’t worry about the judgment in your efforts because you are still starting. Also keep in mind that because you tried, you’re already a better person for that so don’t get discouraged, please keep going! Even if it seems small/irrelevant, it does count in the end. Starting with these simple changes will help you get used to the idea of being aware of your waste.
The change will come to you
Learning more about zero waste started to influence how I buy things like biodegradable paper plates vs. plastic plates, when I know I’ll want water on my trip-I pack a water bottle with me, I try to create my own greeting cards, I try to buy gift bags vs. wrapping papers so that it’s easier for others to reuse, I buy eggs in biodegradable cartons vs. styrofoam/plastic, when people ask me what I want as a gift-I opt for an experience gift, etc. No matter how simple they are, it reflects a shift in the way I acquire things. It made me conscious of the waste created after buying an item and how it will be discarded.
Saying NO to things you don’t need, is a fun way to practice the zero waste mindset.
- NO to plastic bags
- NO to straws
- NO to plastic utensils
- NO to one-use coffee cups or plastic cups
- NO to plastic bottles
- NO to unnecessary things
- NO to waxy gift wrapping paper
- NO to paper bank statements
The list could go on. Try to do one “NO” a day. It’s really liberating and fun!
Awareness is key
I am really happy with all the awareness about this recently! I am excited to see a lot more people posting about using their reusable straws and reposting more zero waste videos as inspirations. Happy for more zero waste grocery stores opening and for big stores joining by providing more zero waste options (make your own trail mix stations, grains in vending stations, etc.).
Hopefully, you are also aware of the recent movement to keep plastic out of the ocean. The biggest influencer right now is 4Ocean and I am so happy with the awareness they are bringing to social media. I encourage you to support them by buying a bracelet to help them remove more waste from the ocean. Head over to their online shop. This really helps keep the cute sea turtles and other sea creatures safe. If you’re saying no to plastics, thank you for your contribution to the movement!
We need as many advocates as we can get on this to create a ripple effect. Lead by example and the people around you will follow. That’s actually how I got started, my cousin inspired me to always bring recyclable bags when shopping. From that one simple change, it made me reflect on the impact I had on the environment.
Here are some items you can buy now to start saying “NO”
I understand though that it kinda sounds counter-productive to buy more things but so far it has helped me say no to so many single-use plastic items because I have the right replacements. You don’t have to deprive yourself of convenience, just have to be smart about it. If you already have possible replacements at home, please use those and don’t buy any more. These are just recommendations to get you started.
1. Reusable straw with case
One day, I was buying coffee from Reading Terminal and as I was about to pay, the cashier asked if I wanted a reusable straw for my order. And thought “Wow, those look so cool and it benefits mother earth? Sign me up! Yes!” And then I went home and found cheaper options on Amazon so I bought a bunch to give to my friends. I also carry one with me in my purse all the time but it’s kinda gross cause I don’t have a case for it and I have to wash it right before I intend to use it. The bad thing is when I’m going on a drive-thru and there’s no sink close by. I end up just taking a straw anyway because I can’t use mine. I definitely suggest getting reusable straws that come in a container and comes with a brush for cleaning. If you buy one without a brush, you end up creating more waste by not reusing your straw. It really feels great to be able to contribute to the zero waste movement as simple as refusing to use a plastic straw. By saying NO to straw, you lessen the demand for straw use in that establishment which means, you also help them save money by not having to buy reusable straws as often.
2. Reusable coffee cup
It’s been really nice to bring my own cup to Wawa because it helps make the stop a lot faster. I know my cup the best so I know how much to put in.
I recommend that you know the size of your refillable cup so you can tell the cashier at the coffee shop what size it is. I hate when they measure the coffee using their single-use cups, pour it into your reusable cup and then throw that cup away. NOOOOOOO! What’s the point? So definitely make sure you know what size you have. If you frequent a certain coffee shop and already know the size you usually get, make sure you get a reusable cup of similar size.
3. Travel utensils
Not only is this cute for your lunch bag, but it’s also cute in your purse! If you know you’re going to a party where plastic utensils are offered, you’ll be able to avoid the need to use it because you brought your own travel utensils!
4. Reusable bags and zip locks
It’s really helpful when the reusable bags are easy to bring with you because it’s easier to say no to plastic bags when you have them on you! I hate when I get to the check out counter at the grocery store and I realized I forgot to bring in my reusable bags from my car. I’d hate to hold the line so I give in to the peer pressure of just using plastic bags. I love these reusable bags that fold into a cute square because it’s so easy to carry it in my purse. I have it wherever I go!
5. Reusable ziplock bags
While we are discussing the use of reusable bags, zip lock bags are something I cannot give up! But I think using the reusable zip lock bags for dry goods, it will lessen your use of the one-use kind. Less is better than no change.